Timothy Showalter's fourth album as Strand of Oaks and first for Dead Oceans is an album as memoir: stark and at times emotionally harrowing as it recounts with bracing candor the artist’s struggles with friends, family, and most of all himself.
“I was just an Indiana kid, getting no one in my bed,” sings Timothy Showalter, a.k.a. Strand of Oaks, “but I had your sweet tunes to play.” That song, mysteriously titled “JM”, recounts long afternoons spent rebelling against his parents, smoking in his car, hating all his friends, and playing JM’s sweet tunes at presumably high volume. The guitars swell and crash around him, then lumber into the kind of crunchy jam that once upon a time had teenage misfits pumping fists or raising lighters in unison. Given that the song is set in Indiana, JM could conceivably be John Mellencamp, the Hoosier rocker laureate who used to sing about such kids, but in fact Showalter has disclosed the song’s true subject: Jason Molina. “JM” is a moving tale of extreme adolescent alienation, alleviated only by the narrator’s identification with a rock hero, in this case one whose locality as a Midwesterner—and sometime Indianan—makes him all the more relatable, more approachable, more real.
Strand of Oaks - HEAL Review (7.9)